The Latest: South Korea sending masks to adoptees abroad

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— South Korea sends masks to adoptees abroad.

— Outdoor service restarts at bars in Spain’s biggest cities.

— Syria reports 20 new cases, the largest number in a day since the outbreak began.

— Outbreak linked to Dutch slaughterhouse spreads across the border to Germany.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it plans to send 370,000 face masks to tens of thousands of South Korea-born adoptees living in the West to help them weather the coronavirus.

The Foreign Ministry said its diplomatic missions will work with dozens of international adoptee groups to distribute the masks to adoptees in 14 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and European nations such as Britain, Germany, France and Italy.

The ministry said it initially planned to send 100,000 masks but decided to expand the supplies because most South Korean adoptees were sent abroad as infants during the 1970s and 1980s and are now old enough to have their own children.

South Korea has been a major source of babies for Western adoptive parents since the end of 1950-53 Korean War. According to official figures, there are around 167,000 South Korean adoptees living abroad, including 110,000 in the United States. But experts say the actual number would be closer to 200,000.

South Korea is also in the process of sending 1 million masks to foreign veterans of the Korean War.

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MADRID — Spain is making progress on its staggered plan out of the confinement against the new coronavirus.

Roughly half of the population, including residents in the biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, are entering phase 1 on Monday, which allows social gatherings in limited numbers, restaurant and bar service with outdoor sitting and some cultural and sports activities.

“It is all very strange but we missed this,” María Cámara said as she enjoyed a morning breakfast in a central Madrid terrace for the first time in over two months.

Cámara and her partner, both warehouse workers, had turned the morning coffee in a bar into a routine followed religiously after long night shifts. “We really noticed not being able to do this,” she said. “We went for a walk instead. But this is great.”

Beyond hand-sanitizer, masks and tables separated by social distancing norms, coffee bar owner Roberto Fernández said that the saddest novelty is those old customers who won’t show up anymore.

“We are also a little sad today, as we have lost two of our more elderly regular customers,” Fernández said. “They used to come every day but now they have left us.”

The other half of the country, provinces with fewer infections or ready to face a possible second outbreak, are going one step further in loosening up restrictions. That includes no time limits on outdoor activities, meetings of up to 15 people, weddings, and visits to nursing homes and beaches. Some vocational schools in the Basque country are also resuming classroom activity.

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DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria’s Health Ministry is reporting 20 new cases of coronavirus in the country, the highest daily count since the new virus was first reported here in late March.

Monday’s announcement raises to 106 the number of confirmed cases. There have been four deaths.

The ministry said all 20 new cases are of Syrians who returned from abroad. They comprise 15 people who came back from Kuwait, three from Sudan, one from Russia and one from the United Arab Emirates.

Syria recently began easing restrictions imposed over the past weeks.

Earlier in May, President Bashar Assad issued a decree postponing the country’s parliamentary elections until July — the second such delay in light of restrictions in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

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BERLIN — A coronavirus outbreak linked to a slaughterhouse in the Netherlands has spread across the border to Germany.

Dutch regional health authorities said Monday that tests showed 147 of the 657 employees at a meat processing plant in Groenlo were positive for COVID-19.

They said 79 of those infected live in Germany, while 68 are resident in the Netherlands.

There have been several clusters of COVID-19 among slaughterhouse workers in Germany in recent weeks, prompting a government pledge to crack down on conditions in the industry. Many workers in German abattoirs are migrants from Eastern Europe employed by subcontractors. They often live in shared housing and are transported to and from the slaughterhouses by shuttle bus, increasing the likelihood of infection.

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PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegro’s health minister has urged citizens to help keep the small Balkan country “corona-free” in the future after authorities said there are no more cases of infection at the moment.

Minister Kenan Hrapovic on Monday described the current situation in the country as a joint success of the health authorities and the citizen of Montenegro.

The Public Health Institute said Sunday that all of the 140 tests in the past 24 hours were negative and that there are no people currently reported sick with the virus.

Hrapovic says “responsible behavior and joint health care will be out trump card in the days ahead so that we can remain proud bearers of the title of a corona-free country.”

The Balkan country of some 620,000 people imposed strict lockdown measures to curb the outbreak. A total of 324 cases have been recorded and nine people have died.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece on Monday restarted regular ferry services to the islands, while restaurants and bars were also back open for business as the country accelerated efforts to salvage its tourism season.

Travel to the islands had been generally off-limits since a lockdown in late March, with only goods suppliers and permanent residents keeping access.

But the country’s low infection rate in the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the government to start the holiday season earlier than expected, on June 15, as other Mediterranean countries — including Italy, Spain, and Turkey — are grappling with more deadly outbreaks.

Distancing regulations and passenger limits have been imposed on ferries and at restaurants, while state-run health services to combat new coronavirus cases are being expanded to the islands, with intensive care space being provided on five islands: Lesbos, Samos, Rhodes, Zakynthos, and Corfu, along with existing facilities on the island of Crete.

Tourism is a vital part of the Greek economy, with a direct cash contribution of more than 10%, and broad secondary benefits. More than 34 million visitors traveled to Greece last year, spending 18.2 billion euros, according to central data.

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NEW DELHI — Domestic airline travel has partially resumed in India as authorities continued to ease a nationwide coronavirus lockdown despite the caseload rising at more than 6,000 new infections per day.

At New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Monday, passengers in masks or full protective suits stood in long lines to show identification and boarding passes to security personnel standing behind plastic partitions. Ticket machines have been shifted outside, where airport workers sanitized baggage and there are stalls stocked masks, sanitizer and face shields.

Commercial flight traffic returned across India, except for the states of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.

India’s Supreme Court has ordered social distancing norms observed in airports and in flight, forcing airlines to keep middle seats open.

Elsewhere in India, Muslims celebrated the festival of Eid, the end of Ramadan, in a subdued fashion with places of worship remaining closed under the lockdown restrictions.

On Monday, India reported more than 138,000 virus cases, including 4,000 deaths.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Thomas Waerner won this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in March, yet he is still waiting to return to his home in Norway.

The Anchorage Daily News reported Waerner and his 16 dogs have been stranded in Alaska by travel restrictions and flight cancellations caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 47-year-old Waerner plans to fly home in early June. He has five children and 35 other sled dogs in Torpa, Norway.

He missed the 10th birthday of one of his children and misses morning coffee with his wife, who left Alaska in March, shortly before health restrictions stopped travel.

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TOKYO —Experts on a special government panel have approved a plan to remove a coronavirus state of emergency from Tokyo and four other remaining prefectures, paving the way for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare entirely ending the measure to allow businesses to gradually resume.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters that experts on a government-commissioned panel approved the plan to end the state of emergency that has lasted for more than a month and a half.

Abe is to officially declare the end of the state of emergency later Monday after endorsement from parliamentary committees.

Nishimura said lifting of the emergency does not mean the end of the pandemic. He said the goal is to minimize next possible recurrences of infections while balancing preventive measures and the economy.

Abe declared the state of emergency on April 7, first in parts of Japan including Tokyo, expanded it to the entire nation later in the month and extended it until the end of May. Unlike a European-style hard lockdown, Japan’s state of emergency is soft and largely a request for people to stay at home and for non-essential businesses to close or operate shorter hours, a strategy aiming at minimizing the economic damage.

Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures are to reopen schools, public facilities and businesses in phases in coming weeks while watching any signs of a resurgence of infections.

Nishimura said recent data suggest that the infections have slowed enough and the medical systems are under less pressure and that it’s time to gradually resume social and economic activity. Tokyo and Hokkaido, where more than a dozen new cases have been reported Sunday, still need to remain extra-cautious, he said.

(asterisk)We cannot completely eliminate the coronavirus to zero,” Nishimura said. “Even after the state of emergency is lifted, we must firmly take preventive measures based on our new lifestyles.”

Japan has 16,580 confirmed cases and 830 deaths, according to the health ministry.

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WASHINGTON — The White House has announced a ban on travel to the U.S. from Brazil due to the spread of coronavirus in Latin America’s hardest-hit country.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany says in a statement Sunday evening that the ban applies to foreign nationals who have been in Brazil in the 14 days before they sought to travel to the United States.

McEnany cast it as a move by President Donald Trump “to protect our country.”

Trump has already banned travel from the United Kingdom, Europe and China, all of which have been hit hard by the virus. Trump had said last week that he was considering imposing similar restrictions on Brazil.

Brazil had reported more than 347,000 COVID-19 cases, second behind the U.S. in the number of infections, according to a Johns Hopkins University count.

Brazil also has recorded more than 22,000 deaths, fifth-most in the world. There have been more than 97,000 U.S. deaths.

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BERLIN — The coronavirus lockdown has pushed the number of road deaths in Germany to a record monthly low.

Official figures released Monday show 158 people died in traffic accidents in March, compared with 234 deaths in the same month last year.

The Federal Statistical Office said it was the lowest monthly death toll on Germany’s roads since reunification in 1990.

Germany imposed significant restrictions on people’s movements in March to lessen the spread of the coronavirus.

The total number of traffic accidents in Germany sank to 166,000 in March, a 23% drop from the same month in 2019.

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LONDON — Plans by the British government to announce a further easing of lockdown measures are being overshadowed by an outcry over a senior aide accused of flouting restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson is standing by adviser Dominic Cummings, who drove 250 miles (400 kilometers) from his London home to his parents’ house while he was infected with the virus. Johnson said Cummings acted out of concern for his 4-year-old son, but many Britons see it as a clear breach of the government’s national “stay at home” order.

Stephen Reicher, a social psychologist who sits on a group advising the government, said “more people are going to die” because the episode will undermine trust in government and adherence to the lockdown rules.

Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines said the public had been “lied to, patronized and treated … as mugs.”

The scandal shows no signs of dying down, with the conservative Daily Mail newspaper running the front-page headline “What planet are they on?” in reference to Cummings and Johnson.

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